Subscribe!Get all the best of On Walkabout by subscribing.

On Walkabout On: Tasmania’s Wilderness Highway

Next Posting: Into the Wilds of Southwest Tasmania

_________________________________________________________________

After touring around the wilds of Southwest Tasmania, my wife and I headed for our next destination which was the remote west coast of Tasmania.  To reach the east coast we had to first backtrack down road B61 from Strathgordon and than take highway A10 east to the small port city of Strahan:

As we turned on A10 we began to see a lot more small towns and buildings compared to the depopulated and isolated southwest of Tasmania.  Just about every little town we passed through had an old church made of usually sturdy stonework that has allowed the structure to survive many decades in the harsh Tasmanian climate:

2008_0106australia20329

There was also a number of farmhouses along the highway as well that were making a living mostly grazing sheep on clear cut areas of former Tasmanian bushland:

2008_0106australia20330

Forestry is a very big industry in Tasmania and along the highway we saw plenty of evidence that clear cutting still continues here as a logging practice.  Fortunately the clear cut lands are being replanted by the logging companies now a days compared to the past where it just became grazing land:

2008_0106australia20331

Eventually the highway reached the Derwent River, which we had previously saw back near Hobart:

2008_0106australia20332

However, the river looks nothing like it does further down stream because of the massive deforestation that has opened up vast tracts of grazing land for the state’s various sheep farms.  There was this one lane bridge across the river that made crossing an interesting experience:

2008_0106australia20333

Vehicles wishing to cross the bridge had to park on their side and await their turn to cross.  I just thought it was interesting that in a modern country like Australia that here was a major highway in Tasmania that motorists were depended on a way bridge to cross this river.  You would think at least a two lane bridge would have been built by now.  Anyway once across the Derwent River the highway begins to enter into the bush again.

Sporadically at different points along the highway there was various hydroelectric plants:

2008_0106australia20334

This system of hydro electric stations is managed by Hydro Tasmania that also manages the Gordon Dam we saw the day before.  The hydroelectric plant you see above creates electricity by having water use the force of gravity to travel down these pipes and and turn generators.  There are 29 of these hydro power stations in Tasmania to go along with 50 dams.  These dams and hydro power stations provide the majority of Tasmania’s energy needs.

A lake we stopped at that wasn’t formed by a dam was the beautiful Lake St. Clair:

2008_0106australia20336

Lake St. Clair is part of the Cradle Mountain-Lake St. Clair National Park.  The lake was carved out by ancient glaciers during the last Ice Age and is 200 meters deep.  The depth of this lake makes it not only the deepest lake in Australia, but also the deepest lake in the world:

2008_0106australia20337

The lake is even more famous in Australia as being the end point of the most popular multi-day hike in the country, The Overland Track that runs across Tasmania’s central highlands.  Instead of walking across the central highlands, my wife and I were driving across it from east to west and yes it was quite spectacular:

2008_0106australia20339

One of the most scenic areas along the highway was this view of Mt. King William I Saddle, which I have often seen in various TV car commercials because of the stunning backdrop it makes:

2008_0106australia20340

There are plenty of other mountains along the highway to stop and see as well along this section of the highlands composed of broad, boggy plains and rugged mountain peaks:

2008_0106australia20341

Eventually Highway A10 enters into the rugged western mountains where the road is completely cloaked by a dense forest:

2008_0106australia20342

Occasionally  the view would open up to expose a dramatic peak rising above the dense forest:

2008_0106australia20343

This section of the road is known as The Wilderness Highway:

2008_0106australia20344

My wife and I stopped along the way to hike to a lookout, which offered a view of a prominent Tasmanian mountain known as the Frenchman’s Cap.  Like much of the highway, this trail was surrounded by the trees of a dense temperate rain forest:

2008_0106australia20347

The trail climbed up a hill and at various the foliage open up enough to provide expansive views of the surrounding bushland:

2008_0106australia20349

Eventually the trail reached the top of the hill where a beautiful view of the 1,446 meter (4,744 ft) Frenchman’s Cap could be seen:

2008_0106australia20348

Here is a closer look at the Frenchman’s Cap, which clearly shows the white quartzite rock that composes this striking peak:

2008_0106australia20351

A trail takes hikers to the summit of the Frenchman’s Cap, but it take approximately 3-3 days to complete.  This is another one of the Tasmanian hikes I want to do some day.  Looking down below the hill I hiked up is the Franklin River, which in the 1980’s was the source of many protests by environmentalists to stop the damming of the river:

2008_0106australia20352

Here is a closer look at the Franklin River:

2008_0106australia20353

The protests against the damming became known as the NO DAMS! campaign, which ultimately stopped the building of the Franklin River Dam, which preserved this incredible wilderness.  I am not against dams in general, but not every river in Tasmania needs a dam and it is good to see at least one of its major rivers is dam free.

From the hill my wife and I hiked back down it and to the river:

2008_0106australia20354

Once again we were surrounded by the lush Tasmanian rain forests that has to provide some of the freshest air on earth because the air was just great to breathe in:

2008_0106australia20357

The foliage was extremely dense and gave us a good idea of what convicts like Alexander Pearce that escaped from a prison colony on the west coast would have experienced trying to get back to civilization.  The water along the Franklin River was incredibly fresh with the slight tannish tent to it that is common for water in Tasmania, which I was told was because of the gum tree roots dying it that color:

2008_0106australia20355

We finally took a walk up to a beautiful waterfall that was supposedly important to local Aboriginal tribes:

2008_0106australia20356

This portion of Tasmania is extremely scenic, remote, and wild.  It is great that this huge wilderness is protected and still in a natural condition that the first European explorers on Tasmania would have saw it as.  Our next destination would take us out of this remote wilderness and into Tasmania’s colonial past, which included mining and convicts.

Next Posting: Queenstown, Tasmania

Add a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *